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Sprint Hiking Early Termination Fees for Smartphones

Sprint is against AT&T's T-Mobile merger because it says it'll raise prices. But Sprint has no issues doing the same.

Sprint believes that the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger will increase costs for consumers. So is it hypocritical that Sprint is making its own plans more expensive? According to Sprint enthusiast blog Sprintfeed, Sprint will hike early termination fees on September 9.

After that date, the costs to end a contract early for smart devices--smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and notebooks--will jump from $200 to $350.

Verizon was the first to hike the ETF fee back in 2009 to $350. AT&T followed suit last year, raising theirs to $325. T-Mobile still charges $200 regardless of the type of device. Every major carrier now prorates the fee based on how many months the customer has left in their contract term, but that hasn't stopped the FCC from looking into the practice.

Higher ETFs seem to follow what has been a general trend among providers to not explicitly hike rates, but alter the current structure of their plans that could result in higher costs for the consumer.

Take for example the end of unlimited plans. Sprint is now the only true 'unlimited' carrier, as T-Mobile's unlimited plans feature a cap after a set amount of data bandwidth. And that may not last long: CEO Dan Hesse said in July that "nothing is guaranteed forever," implying Sprint may be moving away from unlimited service, as well.

Why the carriers are fiddling with these hidden costs isn't clear, as it's not like any of the carriers are struggling financially. One possibility is how competitive the industry is: it's tough to make more money. Sneakily raising the potential cost of a phone is one way to nickel and dime us even more, I guess.

Is the higher ETF necessary? You could argue that since phones are heavily subsidized, it's only fair. But do you really think in most cases the carrier is paying some $300+ more to stock a device that it's selling to you for $200 or $300 already? I really doubt it.

For more tech news and commentary, follow Ed on Twitter at @edoswald, on Facebook, or on Google+.

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